Home Theater Tips

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by krause734, Oct 29, 2016.

  1. krause734 macrumors 6502

    krause734

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2010
    #1
    I have my Mac Mini hooked up to my Smart TV because it wasn't smart enough for me. I have jacked up the display to 1600 X 900 for web browsing. I am using a bluetooth keyboard and a trackpad. Any other tips for using the Mac Mini as a Media Device. I though about ripping some DVD's to the 1TB Hard Drive and maybe getting some Sonos for bluetooth speakers throughout the house. I also have photo slideshows setup as a screen saver. Any interesting setups or tips for home theater/computer?
     
  2. MrWillie macrumors 65816

    MrWillie

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Location:
    Starlite Starbrite Trailer Court
    #2
    All my media is on a NAS drive. The only issue I have using the Mac Mini (Really it would be ANY iTunes server), is that if iTunes doesn't see the networked drive for 1 femtosecond, iTunes changes the iTunes directory to the default directory on the local hard drive. It has been doing it for years. iTunes also likes to change your metadata on movies you ripped from disk to "Home Videos" from "movies". I wish they would fix this.

    I also go from the HDMI out to a receiver, from the receiver to the TV. ATv, TiVo, and Blu-ray players also hook up through the receiver. It's quicker and easier to just mash the one button on the receiver remote than trying to scroll though endless smart TV menus. ( Which is why I don't have a smart TV)
     
  3. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #3
    You are off to a good start. A few comments/questions:

    1) It sounds like your TV is your primary monitor for the Mac Mini, is that correct? If so, you can of course keep using it that way. But if you have a traditional monitor for the Mini, you can also detach the Mini from the TV and instead invest in a streaming box (AppleTV, Roku, FireTV, nVidia Shield, etc.).

    2) Sonos is not a bluetooth speaker solution. They use wifi to transmit the audio, which has significant advantages over bluetooth. That being said, they are simply not as flexible as bluetooth speakers and you can't just send anything to the speakers. You have to use the Sonos app to control the system. I love Sonos, it is my favorite technology, but people that go into it with expectations that they can be used with bluetooth or connected to a computer as external speakers are inevitably disappointed.

    3) If you remain interested in Sonos, and it is a great option, you need to consider the Playbar as your initial investment for TV use. The Playbar will connect to the TV via an optical cable. You can then add additional Sonos speakers of your choice to other rooms of the house.

    4) Do not try to find a solution using the less costly Sonos speakers, such as the Play:1, as TV speakers. They are not designed for it, and you will get frustrated. If you want to go the Sonos route for TV use, Playbar is the 1 and only solution (without workarounds and audio sync issues).
     
  4. oneMadRssn macrumors 68040

    oneMadRssn

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #4
    Sonos really needs to update the Playbar to have HDMI with ARC. Unfortunately, the vast majority of TVs output a poorly down-mixed stereo via optical out. So surround sound is out (even though Sonos advertises the use of Play1 as surround-sound satellites). Also, on most TVs, even the stereo-signal from Optical is not very good as TVs have notoriously bad sound processing.

    It would be so easy for Sonos to take in the bare HDMI input, extract the sound, send the video on via HDMI to the TV and get the TV audio via ARC for those that use antennas. This would produce higher sound quality and allow true surround sound.

    I would buy the Sonos Playbar immediately if they did this. At the moment, the new Bose SoundTouch 300 looks like a better sound bar at that price range.
     
  5. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #5
    I am not disagreeing in principle that adding HDMI could be a benefit. However, it does add to the complexity that many people would not want. As it stands now, the TV acts as the hub with all sources going to the TV, and the Playbar is just the audio output from the TV. Instead, using HDMI:

    1) All of the sources would have to run to the Playbar or some sort of splitter/hub 1st, then to the TV. In other words, it would be more "AVRish".

    --OR--

    2) As you indicate, use HDMI ARC and just have the Playbar use 1 of the TV's HDMI ports. Sounds great, but in reality the vast majority of TVs are already short on HDMI ports! So many people would have to add a splitter/hub.

    Anyhow, I am OK with my setup as my TV does pass Dolby 5.1 to the optical output. And, everything I have is Dolby 5.1 as opposed to DTS or other "more advanced" signals. So the current capabilities of Sonos suit me well. I actually only use a single box for 100% of my viewing, the AppleTV 4, and I love my simple setup in my family room. (I have a traditional AVR 5.1 setup in my basement theater.)
     
  6. oneMadRssn macrumors 68040

    oneMadRssn

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    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #6
    I'm with you there, in terms of wanting simplicity. Out of curiosity, what TV do you have that passes Dolby 5.1 to the optical out? Do all models of this brand do it?

    I don't the HDMI/HDMI ARC system is so complex. You're right that it's not perfect in terms in input management, but HDMI-CEC does help there a lot.

    For my it's more about price. At $700, the Sonos Playbar is on the expensive-side of sound bars. For that much money, I expect more features and I want it to support higher-quality connectivity standards. I expect better from a company like Sonos. They know their stuff, they make a good product, and they know who they are competing with.

    For the same exact price, the Bose SoundTouch 300 offers all the same features of the Sonos Playbar but with support for HDMI or optical. It also does Wifi streaming, controlled by an app, connectors to Spotify, Pandora, SeruisXM, Amazon, Deezer, etc. (Apple Music missing for now). It also does bluetooth though. It also has an optional wireless sub and wireless satellites you can add for added benefit.

    Also, using HDMI ARC does not change the number of ports used. Look, assuming a TV has 2 HDMI ports, below shows that two HDMI ports on the TV are used either way. Also, the input controls are still done on the TV.

    With optical -
    TV HDMI1: Set-top box
    TV HDMI2: Game console
    TV Optical: Audio of whatever input is selected to sound bar
    SB Optical: Audio of whatever input is selected from tv

    With HDMI ARC -
    SB HDMI in: Set-top box
    SB HDMI out: using ARC: video-out of set-top box to TV or audio-in of game console from TV, based on input on TV
    TV HDMI1: using ARC: video-in of set-top box, or audio-out of game console, based on input on TV
    TV HDMI2: game console
    TV Optical: (nothing)

    It seems messier, but there is actually no difference in the number of wires, and the input controls are still handled by the TV.
     
  7. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #7
    1) I have a 52" Sony LCD set that is about 6 years old. By today's standards, this TV was a small fortune, I believe about $1,800. Back when I bought it it was definitely on the expensive side, but more like "mid-level". I don't know if all of their sets support 5.1 via optical, but I would guess not. There is a "HT megathread" on the Sonos board and I think you can do some research there. Let me know if you want the URL.

    2) Is $700 expensive? That is purely subjective as you can certainly spend less, but you can also spend more on audio equipment (including soundbars). I want to be careful because Sonos discussions tend to spark arguments about cost. Personally, while I don't find it cheap by any stretch, I am thrilled with the value it brings ME (yes, capital ME). The 1 key thing to also consider is that the Playbar is also a regular Sonos zone, so I use my Playbar all day, every day for music/radio as I work from home. I have 6 Sonos zones and group them together every day (with the exception of the Patio zone). If the Playbar were only usable as a TV speaker, then I would agree that it is pricey and I would have likely just bought a different soundbar (or have stuck with my AVR and 5.1 setup that I sold to get the Sonos 5.1 setup).

    3) I am aware of the Bose system, but never really considered it when I started down the Sonos path. I do know that Sonos has a strong track record of supporting their speakers through many upgrade cycles. I seems to me, at least from a distance, that the other vendors are not as completely dedicated as their wifi/whole home products are just a subset of their businesses. If I did replace Sonos, I would likely look to the Bose options 1st.

    4) Your example of using the different HDMIs made my head spin. So I will assume you are correct! ;-) But still, that is a mixture of inputs/outputs that most "typical users" would not consider.

    My opinion has always been that the Playbar has some great features, especially if you leverage it as a music zone in addition to a TV speaker. But it is not as capable as a standalone AVR and a 5.1 speaker setup (assuming a decent AVR and speaker) in terms of both audio quality and input flexibility. So you need to make the tradeoff decision.
     
  8. oneMadRssn macrumors 68040

    oneMadRssn

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #8
    1. I'll find it myself when the time comes to replace my TV, thanks :) Don't need to kill my afternoon reading HT threads today.

    2. I think $700 is expensive. I know there are $2000 sound bars, but those are super niche. I think the top-selling sound bar on Amazon is the Vizio one. It also has a kit that comes with a wireless sub and two satellites wired to the sub. Depending on size, kit, and particular sale, it ranged from $250-$400. It has better-than-most HT-in-a-box quality. I would consider that mid-range for a sound bar. There are of course cheapo ones for under $100. Given those data points, I think it's fair to expect a lot from a $700 one.

    I'm not trying to talk you out of the Playbar - if it works for you that's awesome. I would feel odd recommending something that costs $700 and doesn't have HDMI support is all.

    Also, I agree that the Sonos zone thing is a huge benefit. If it had HDMI, I would buy it today no further questions asked.

    3. When said TV upgrade comes, I will revisit Sonos. If it still has no HDMI, I'm going with the Bose probably. Or I might go down the full-blown AVR path, because I hate myself.

    4. Looking back, it is confusing. But it's hard to do with text. If I could draw a picture, I think it actually looks less complicated than the non-ARC setup. It's that one two-way HDMI-ARC connection that is really difficult to diagram with words alone.
     
  9. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #9
    That's funny...I love your #4!

    Anyhow, as for the $700 Playbar...personally I think the stand-alone Playbar is adequate at best. In fact, I would not use the Playbar without the Sub, making it a $1,400 investment.

    As mentioned, "expensive" is subjective. I am happy with the money I spent relative to the enjoyment I receive. But it is, for me and most people, not chump change.
     
  10. HDFan macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2007
    #10
    My setup is somewhat different than Krause 734's. I have a HD TV with a dedicated 5.1 receiver driving 5 Goldener speakers. Source devices attached to my TV include an Apple TV, Oppo BDP-105D with a Roku stick, and a DirectTV receiver. My TV is only used as a video monitor for these other devices. Optical audio from the TV doesn't support Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio so I don't use the TV audio. I feed my 5.1 receiver from these other devices. Because of the superior video and audio handling of the Oppo my DirectTV receiver HDMI output first goes into the Oppo, then into my receiver. I use one HDMI out on the Oppo for video and a second HDMI out for audio only. Both are fed into my receiver. I also watch Netflix on the Oppo again to it's superior video with Darby processing and audio DAC.

    All of my media is on drives attached to my MacPro. The TV and devices are connected via ethernet. On my Mac there is about 750 GB of iTunes Media, another 750 GB of SD movies from SD rips and YouTube, and 4 TB of HD movies. If you are serious about ripping movies a 1 TB drive is going to fill up very quickly. An HD movie can easily be 30 GB in size.

    After trying and discarding a number of media servers I finally settled on Plex to stream my ~5.5 TB of content to the Plex app on my Apple TV. Some people feel that the Infuse app on the ATV4 is better as it has better audio support, but I found the Plex interface to be superior. The Oppo also supports Plex via it's networking option, but there's no native Oppo Plex app and so the interface is via source file lists.

    My iTunes media and pictures are available via both the ATV4 Apple apps (Photos, Music) and Plex. Pictures are a bit of a mess for a couple of reasons. Plex doesn't support slideshows or screen savers so I have to use my Apple TV for those. But my ~3TB of pictures are managed in Lightroom rather than Photos. So I have to export photo albums that I want in Photos from Lightroom and import them into Photos. There is a lightroom app on the ATV4 but it doesn't support the ATV4 screen saver.

    If you are going with a soundbar rather than a dedicated receiver and 5.1 speakers then you really have to decide how important sound is to you both in terms of quality (do you want a concert video to sound exactly as it would if you were in a front row seat?, Do you want to hear Tom Cruise's F-14A Tomcat flying from behind you over head to the front in Top Gun?). Sound may not be that important to you, but there is a huge difference in sound between a compressed MP3 source and a high definition source on a really good reproduction system.

    To get a sounder that has decent sound and also approaches the spatial representation that you get in a 5.1 system
    you're talking about spending $1500+:

    http://www.soundandvision.com/conte...g-51-music-presentation-0#I4iUwiiLEZTZ5fyG.97

    So before making any investments I'd try to figure out what your long term plan is. What's most important to you. Do you want to have a media library that is as large as possible, and you don't care about quality? Or do you want to have the best quality that you can afford? Do you plan to upgrade components later as funds become available, or do you just want to build a system to last you until it fails?

    That way you minimize spending money on components that will have to be discarded later. For example, if you go with a really good soundbar then if you decided to migrate to a receiver then you don't have to replace your speakers. If you rip CD's and HD movie as compressed files rather than lossless and MKV or .m2ts files then you may regret it later when they look miserable on an 8K television.
     
  11. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #11
    Itunes on NAS - this is how I do it :

    This is the short version of the process - put your files onto your NAS (say a folder called iTunes Music). Next, go to iTunes and let it have a default library on your computer. What you want to do is use the ADD TO LIBRARY from "Files" above. Just make sure your preferences are ticked so no files are moved. You have a choice to let the files stay "as is" on the NAS or have iTunes arrange them in typical iTunes fashion. I prefer simply that each group of songs is in a folder named after the CD or Album. Thus, Abbey Road is the name of the folder and songs within are the tracks from the album/cd.

    What you have above will allow for errors in synching between iTunes/computer and NAS to occur without harm. iTunes simply will say it cannot play the file if the NAS is not immediately available. Nothing needs to be adjusted in iTunes. Just wake up the NAS if this happens and retry.

    The key to solving the NAS issues is to make sure your NAS is up and communicating with your computer. There are several ways to do this and let's not forget many NAS will spin down and that causes delays too. - The latter is also addressable.

    LAST - nothing is without at least one hassles and for the above, when I download music (from iTunes which is truly rare if at all these days), it will default to my library on the computer. I usually move it out, delete it from the iTunes listing and move it up to the NAS and re-add it. Its easy but for some they can't or don't want to even do any adjustments to make things consistent. It remains your call.
     
  12. MrWillie macrumors 65816

    MrWillie

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    Starlite Starbrite Trailer Court
    #12
    The S/PDIF, whether optical or coax, supports lossless two channel audio. It can do DTS 5.1/7.1, which is highly compressed. For Dolby True HD or Digital Master, (or whatever they call it nowadays, I don't have the time nor the inclination to keep up) you need HDMI or Display Port.

    I'm looking to upgrade my receiver. I want the thing networked. Since I never use the radio , nor do I have my back speakers hooked up, (yep, 3.1 sound. Beats the hell out of the sound from the TV we had when I was a kid.) so I'm looking at sound bars, but I like everything hooked up to the sound bar via HDMI, like I do with the AVR.

    It seems like Bose dropped their $999 model that had the four HDMI inputs that I was looking at.

    Not quite, it does do DTS. DTS is the compressed 5.1/7.1 output on S/PDIF.

    But on to the most important thing, you love your simple setup. In the end, that's all that really matters. .
     
  13. phrehdd, Nov 5, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2016

    phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #13
    Mr. Willie - First, I have to say I don't use Bose nor Sonos or for that matter ATV. However I do use an AVR, TiVo, Blue Ray player, Mac Mini with Linux+Kodi (XBMC) and my 65" plasma along with some nice speakers and my faithful NAS. Everything is connected to the network. My Nvidia Shield TV is on what seems now to be a "forever" loan. The Nvidia makes up for its ugly menus with excellent playback and can pretty much make my Mac Mini obsolete in my set up. I use it for Kodi playback of my NAS files.

    I prefer to run everything into the AVR and then the output is wiring to the speakers and single HDMI to the TV. Thus all HDMI switching is done on the AVR itself. The AVR only passes through the video signal but may process audio thus I can have all the typical audio found with movies with zero issue.

    When you talk about DTS and Dolby surround, that is about the level of surround one can get for a DVD. It really isn't that bad and many people cannot even tell the difference between that level and true HD audio. On my system, depending on what I am playing, I can tell a difference immediately.

    If you have or are getting a new AVR, then consider a passive sound bar (speaker wires from your AVR to your sound bar). If you have the budget, spring for the highest line Goldenear sound bar. They are not cheap but are an exceptional buy when it comes to getting that "3D" sound effect that comes close to real surround. Match it up with a subwoofer and you are gold. There are other excellent soundbars but honestly this one is impressive at any price and beats out its competitors at its own price.
     
  14. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #14
    MrWillie, I am not sure what you mean by "Not quite, it does do DTS. DTS is the compressed 5.1/7.1 output on S/PDIF.". Are you saying that the AppleTV supports DTS? Or the Sonos Playbar? Or that the TV is converting the DTS signal before sending out to the optical?

    Because I am 99.9% sure that the Sonos Playbar does not (in fact, it is 1 of the major complaints some people have about the Playbar).
     
  15. HDFan macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2007
    #15
    If you decide to run a media server such as Plex the next question becomes WHERE do you run it. Plex runs on a ton of devices including NAS devices. This can become an issue if you are streaming to other locations in the house or to devices such as iPad's or iPhones outside the home.

    I stream to my bedroom ATV4 at bedtime to get to sleep but want to turn off my systems when I'm done to save energy and hardware wear. It costs about $.07 an hour to keep my MacPro and 11 disks spinning so that's over $613 a year in energy expensive California. Running downstairs to turn everything off else defeats the purpose of using it as a sleep aid so I use Parallels access to shut everything down. If you are just steaming in your living room you can just power up whatever systems you need and power them down when needed so it's not much of an issue. But if you are traveling and want to power it up and down remotely it can be a problem.

    I don't have any experience with a NAS. I assume that it would startup for network access and shutdown when done (which my Mac doesn't for a number of reasons). But I'm not sure if Plex's media scanner, which seems to always be running, would allow that to happen. You also need enough horsepower in the NAS to handle any transcoding that is needed.

    The reason I mention this is an email from Plex this week about Plex running on a ROUTER:

    https://www.plex.tv/netgear-nightha...e&utm_campaign=Roundup+October+2016+Plex+Pass

    Since your router is probably always on, you could just attach an 8 TB external drive to it for $219 and you would have your media available everywhere, 24 x 7, for just the cost of the hardware and the energy cost of two relatively low power devices. The Nighthawk is very expensive, and I'm not sure what throughput you would get since 60 GHz 802.11 ad doesn't go through walls. I'm thoroughly in the Apple ecosystem so setting up a netgear base station and likely extender may not be for me, but it is certainly something to consider.
     
  16. MrWillie macrumors 65816

    MrWillie

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    #16
    No, what I did was erroneously thought that the Dolby 5.1 was uncompressed, and it is not. It is compressed. (I looked it up.)

    I quite caring and trying to keep up with the A/V audio standards a while back. Dolby and DTS are two different competing codecs/ standards. With DTS changing their name, their 10 different versions, Dolby and all their differ versions, then add the THX certification and George breaking that up into an "Ultra" and "Drinking wine out of the bottle in a paper bag" version, I found it overwhelming. I have enough other stuff to keep track of, plus I was happy using the front three channels and the sub on my AVR.

    My AVR is dated, I wish to upgrade to a networked receiver. I don't use most of the crap on my current receiver some I am considering a sound bar, but I want want to use it to switch between HDMI inputs.
     
  17. jdag macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 15, 2012
    #17
    1 key to my switch from an AVR in favor of the Sonos 5.1 system was that I no longer needed HDMI switching since I am 100% streaming via AppleTV.

    EDIT: As an added note, I would not go back to the AVR + separate speakers again. In fact, in my basement home theater, am am contemplating moving to the Sonos 5.1 setup because I really enjoy the Sonos ecosystem throughout the house.
     
  18. DakotaGuy macrumors 68040

    DakotaGuy

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    Jan 14, 2002
    Location:
    South Dakota, USA
    #18
    The Bose SoundTouch also connects with Bluetooth and offers Bluetooth re-broadcasting if you have other SoundTouch systems so that is one other benefit. So far the reviews are quite good especially if you pair it with the wireless Acoustimass 300 bass module.
     
  19. MrWillie macrumors 65816

    MrWillie

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    #19
    I was looking at one of their sound bars that had four HDMI in and one out, for $999. When they updated there product line, they evidently dropped it. ☹️
     

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